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Was Malthus right? The relationship between population and real wages in Italian history, 1320 to 1870

  • Chiarini, Bruno

In this article we investigate the relation between population and real wages in the Italian economy during the period 1320-1870. The main result is that the positive check is strong and statistically significant but the other equilibrating mechanism in the Malthusian model - the preventive check - based on the positive relationship between fertility and real wages does not operate in pre-industrial Italy. In contrast to the Malthusian hypothesis, we find a negative feedback from wage to population. The empirical result is clearly consistent with the theoretical framework of the "old age security motive". We show, with a simple overlapping-generation model, that by allowing for substitution in a pre-industrial economy between child quantity and other assets (such as new seeds, better soybean quality, and new cultivation and irrigation methods) fertility may be negatively affected whenever income rises.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Explorations in Economic History.

Volume (Year): 47 (2010)
Issue (Month): 4 (October)
Pages: 460-475

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Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:47:y:2010:i:4:p:460-475
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